Healing Weeds - Getting a closer contact with the healing world of herbs and wild plants.

Friday, August 16, 2013


Typha latifolia
NL: Grote lisdodde / F: Massette

Cattail is another versatile plant considered as the wonder of survivalists. One can indeed basically survive from this plant only if needed. It can be used as nutritious food, it filters and purifies waters, it offers material for building shelters, boats, baskets, cordage, clothes, hats, beds, mats, pillows, insulation and it can also be used as a fire starter or fire torch. The more creative you are , the more applications you will find for cattails. 

Before we get to how nutritious this plant is, it is worth noting that cattail is a wetland plant, growing in swamps, ponds and along rivers and lakes. One of its important ecological functions is to purify and detoxify water, removing even pollutants and heavy metals from the waters where it grows. The thing is that it cannot get rid of those toxic products or neutralize them right away, so it accumulates them. When thinking of harvesting cattails to be used as food, make sure it grows in a non-polluted environment.

the plant can be used in natural water treatment systems

As food source, it can provide enough calories, from carbohydrates, fats and proteins - a complete survival meal. Its rhizomes and roots can be harvested and prepared during autumn and winter, exactly when most other plants are not available. The white part of the leaves are also delicious when cooked. In the springtime, its shoots can be harvested and eaten raw or cooked and its pollen can be added to meals, adding extra vitamins and minerals.  With this plant one can have food all year round, in all seasons.

Before we can see the typical cattail seed heads, it is possible to confuse cattails with members of the iris family, which grow also in wetlands but are toxic, not edible. Still it is possible to identify cattail by its leaves growing around a very round stalk at its basis. The leaves of the iris grow around a flat-fan formation, very different from the cattail.

leaves grow around a round stalk
Cattail is also a popular folk medicine as diuretic. Its roots can be used as poultice to heal wounds, burns, insect bites, skin inflammations and it helps boils and pustules to get out. Dried and burned, its ashes work as a great first aid antiseptic for wounds or toothache. 
Listed below you will find a selection I made of the best videos and articles I could find on cattails, full of practical information worth checking out: 

Harvesting and preparing cattails (6 videos from Learningherbs.com)

Making a pillow from cattails - Simply Homemaking

Cattail pollen lessons - From: Hunger and Thirst Food, like life, is best when it's wild and free

fluffy parts: pillow filling, insulation, fire starter
roots and rhizomes can be harvested even during winter

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